Mattis: US 'still assessing' suspected Syria chemical weapons attack

Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — Trump returns to UN praising Kim | Iran in crosshairs later this week | US warns Russia on missile defense in Syria Bolton: Russian missile system sale to Syria a 'significant escalation' Overnight Defense: Trump identifies first soldier remains from North Korea | New cyber strategy lets US go on offense | Army chief downplays talk of 'Fort Trump' MORE said Wednesday that the United States and its allies were "still assessing" reports of a chemical weapons attack in Syria, and that they are working on options to respond.

Mattis wouldn’t say whether he has seen enough evidence to blame Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government for the attack that reportedly killed at least 49 civilians in Douma over the weekend. 

“We’re still assessing the intelligence, ourselves and our allies. We’re still working on this,” Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon prior to meeting with defense officials from the Netherlands.

President Trump, on the other hand, has firmly blamed Assad and his ally Russian President Vladimir Putin for the alleged attack, and said the administration would decide on a response soon. 

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Trump earlier Wednesday warned Moscow that “nice and new and 'smart' ” missiles would be headed to Syria.

“Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and 'smart!'" he wrote on Twitter.

“You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!" the president added, referring to Assad.

The United States last April launched 59 cruise missiles at a Syrian airfield in response to a similar chemical attack by the government that killed dozens of civilians.

But Russia has threatened that its air defenses would shoot down any incoming missiles.

When asked if the U.S. military was ready to conduct retaliatory strikes against Syria, Mattis replied that officials “stand ready to provide military options if they’re appropriate as the president determines.”

Reports indicate Trump is considering a more forceful strike on Syria than the missile attack he authorized last year.

Among the options being considered is a plan to hit multiple targets and launching a more prolonged attack.